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Teeth Whitening

Teeth can become discoloured for many reasons, including the effects of food and drink, smoking, poor dental hygiene, and age. Bringing the white sparkle back into your teeth however, is an extremely simple, safe and effective procedure and one that the team here has undertaken on behalf of hundreds of patient, with fantastic results.

The most common form of tooth whitening is professional bleaching, the active ingredient of which is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen is released onto the enamel of the teeth causing the colour of the teeth to lighten. An alternative to bleaching is laser or ‘power whitening’. This involves a light or laser being shone onto the teeth to create a chemical reaction which whitens the teeth by up to five or six times.

Our dedicated alliances with some of the UK’s leading dental suppliers, means that we can produce the equipment required for teeth whitening in-house, ensuring an efficient, consistent, and personal treatment plan for every one of our patients.

My smile is totally different and all you can see now are lovely white teeth that I am very proud of!


What different techniques are available?

A gel, normally carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, is used to bleach teeth and there are two main ways of doing this. Usually the dentist takes an impression of the teeth to make a special flexible bleaching tray (similar to a gum shield) that fits around the teeth. The bleaching gel is placed in the tray following the dentist’s instructions. The teeth will become gradually lighter over a period of time. It is important that the tray is specially made so that the bleaching gel is only applied to those teeth to be bleached. This specially constructed tray also keeps the gel away from the saliva which inactivates it.

The bleaching tray is worn for several hours at a time, usually at night time or whenever it is most convenient. A course of treatment takes a variable number of weeks and results may vary depending on the initial darkness of the teeth, the concentration of gel used and the frequency of application.

Sometimes the dentist applies a higher strength material directly on to the teeth in surgery.

How long does it take?

Home tooth bleaching normally takes about two to four weeks. Bleaching tetracycline stained teeth can take months. The dentist will advise on how many hours a day (or night) to wear a gel filled tray. This is normally between two and six hours. It must be worn for at least two hours.

In surgery tooth bleaching procedures take two or more sessions of 30 – 60 minutes. The dentist will protect the gums with a rubber sheet or a gel whilst the strong bleach is applied. Sometimes a light is shone on to the teeth to activate a chemical within the gel. The procedure itself may take about an hour with the gel being changed as necessary during that time. This approach may also be combined with home bleaching for a period of weeks after the in-surgery treatment.

What are the risks?

There is the risk that the bleaching tray may not work quickly and the dentist will discuss the possible reasons why it might not work particularly well or why it might take longer than average.

Not all teeth bleach to the same extent, particularly deeply discoloured or miscoloured teeth. Some teeth bleach more effectively or more quickly than others. Teeth which are already quite light will only lighten a little further. Some teeth do not bleach evenly. This can be a problem where the gum has receded and the darker root surface is exposed. Such teeth can become sensitive with bleaching.

Certain types of tooth discolouration do not respond easily and may require special treatment by a dentist.

Fillings, veneers or crowns that match the existing teeth will not change with bleaching. The costs of replacing so that they match the new lighter colour of the natural teeth can be considerable. This needs to be discussed with the dentist before undertaking bleaching.

The extensive clinical data continue to support the safety and effectiveness of this kind of tray-based tooth bleaching with 10% carbamide peroxide. However during bleaching teeth may become sensitive for a period of time. This is usually only temporary. A fluoride gel or special toothpaste within the tray can be worn for 30 minutes before bleaching to minimise sensitivity. Temporary irritation of the soft tissues in the mouth, particularly the gums, is rare but can occur if too much gel is loaded into the trays. The dentist will advise how to help avoid this problem.

How long will the lighter appearance last?

The effects of tray bleaching may last longer than in-surgery bleaching. Sometimes the tray technique is combined with in-surgery treatment to extend the period for which the teeth appear lighter in colour.

Teeth which have been bleached have a gradual tendency to return to their normal colour. This means that teeth may need to be bleached again at some time in the future and the cost of this is not normally included in the initial treatment. Because the gel used in the bleaching process degrades fairly rapidly (six months shelf life) it should be stored in a cool place. New gel should be bought if repeating the treatment. The existing bleaching trays can be used again for top-up treatments. The trays should be kept safely.

What is the current legal situation?

Under European legislation certain products containing hydrogen peroxide cannot be supplied for cosmetic purposes because of ‘cosmetic regulations’.

Most European countries are agreed that these products should be available to dentists. Changes in the European laws are anticipated but have not yet taken place. Meanwhile supervised bleaching techniques are widely used in other countries throughout the world.

Tooth bleaching materials are perfectly safe when used under professional supervision.

What are the alternatives?

Tooth bleaching as the particular advantage that it does not involve any destruction of existing healthy tooth structure.

Tooth bleaching may not be ‘the right’ or ‘the only’ aesthetic treatment and the dentist will discuss individual treatment needs. There is also the alternative of making no change to your tooth colour or the application of white (composite) filling material to disguise the colour of the teeth.

The provision of crowns or veneers can be used to alter the colour of the teeth in order to make them lighter. However this usually involves the removal of a significant amount of sound natural tooth tissue and is very destructive compared to tooth bleaching. Whilst a crown is a strong restoration it is important to be aware that there can be additional problems due to the preparation of the tooth to receive it. The underlying tooth can sometimes break or in about 15% of cases may require root canal treatment if the nerve of the tooth doesn’t settle after treatment.

However, a crown or veneer may be a reasonable option if a tooth is already heavily filled or root filled. It is likely that both crowns and veneers will need to be periodically replaced over time.

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